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West Henderson looks to run to daylight, delight Falcon Faithful

Triple awesome is how the Falcons felt running their triple option roughshod over Madison, winning on the road Aug. 22 to triumph in its opener for the first time in 12 years.

“Action” Jackson ran for 151 yards (16.8 ypc.) — nearly half of West’s 318 ground yards — and scores of 39 and 29 yards. Landon Owen ran for a 20-yard touchdown. Quarterback William Crouch rushed for 64 yards (13 ypc.).

The clincher was hefty Zach Boyd’s QB sack, to thwart a two-point try to tie the contest in the final two minutes.West was unbeaten for 10 months, bridging the end of last season with the start of this one.

Then in a 29-20 defeat last Friday, West fought hard and kept up with powerhouse rival Hendersonville (HHS) in its home opener. Crouch ran for the first score. Down 20-7, West’s Jackson returned an interception the distance to cut the lead to 20-13 which remained at halftime. James Murray’s 32-yard TD run and the PAT tied the game at 20, with 9:48 to play. The Johnson Field home crowd was roaring.


Dustie Fender (3) of West cuts upfield, against Hendersonville Friday.

HHS took the lead with 6:22 to go on a safety after pinning West deep on a punt, and tacked on an insurance TD at the 2:44 mark. New head coach Eric Gash earned his first victory. Michael Schmidt threw for 188 yards and a score, in his ’14 debut.

HHS literally snatched victory, as its defenders wrestled the ball away including twice to snap long Falcon drives. The Bearcats recovered of five West’s whopping eight fumbles. West made no turnovers in week one.

Junior varsity Falcons defeated HHS, with Brandon Whitaker at QB. His father is fifth-year Falcon head coach Paul Whitaker. West JV won all but once in ’13. Murray (5-10, 180 jr.), Owen (5-9, 150 so.), OLB Tanner Bullock (5-11, 172 jr.) and others now shine for varsity.

East and West Henderson both opened in 1960. In 2013, neither thet Eagles nor Falcons had won on the field leading to their traditional season-ending Bird Bowl. West won 28-21, avenging recent defeats.

“It’s big to win against a county rival,” Whitaker said. “It gives our new seniors confidence” entering ’14. “They took lumps as kids. Now we’re senior-loaded (20 of 41).” This contrasts to ’13, when brief Senior Night festivities honored merely five players.

The Falcons return 10 of 11 starters on offense and nine on defense. “We have experience and depth,” Whitaker said. “They’ve been in the war zones.”

West operates the flexbone triple option, has run 70 percent of the time and stuck to the ground Friday. There is more spread formation, with William Crouch (5-9, 160 sr.) as quarterback. He took the helm last year, after initial starter HB-QB Dustie Fender (5-11, 165 sr.) was injured in game four. They have split duties in many games.

Crouch entered this season as the main QB, initially. He tossed a good spiral for a key completion against HHS. Fender sparked West’s comeback to tie the game, by leading two second-half drives as a running Fender Bender QB. This was as Whitaker “played the hot hand” behind center.

Fender starts in the backfield, as a halfback or QB. Whitaker likes Fender’s breakaway speed, and the senior is among main ball carriers. “Dustie may be better running, and William better throwing.” The coach added, “William did a lot for us, filling in. Dustie has been in the (varsity) trenches for four years.”

West backs find running gaps well. Bruising Brendan Goings (6-0, 194 sr.) is the biggest back, with Alex Ball out for the year with an injured knee. He is the top returning rusher with 679 yards. He smashed through HHS at times. When the going got tough, the Goings got going.

Fastest Falcon Cody Jackson (6-0, 177 sr.) was close to Goings in yards in ’13. Jackson a sizzling open-field runner, as a slot back and return man. New halfback/wingbacks include (James) Murray and Owen. “James’ greatest attribute is his vision — seeing a hole, and following blockers,” Whitaker said.

Split end Taylor Geyer (6-3, 165 sr.) is an athletic target. Tight ends are Tristan Thomas (6-3, 180 jr,) or Davis Fisher (6-2, 215), among basketball standouts.

Big birds up front include third-year starter RT Brian Albea (6-3, 260 sr.) who was out Friday, RG Zach Boyd (6-0, 265 sr.), center Josh Bandy (6-0, 235 sr.), LG Emet Gomez (5-8, 197 jr.) and LT Josh Wesson (6-2, 255 jr.). “O-line development is critical,” Whitaker said.

In the “52” defense, star linebackers include top returning tacklers Thomas (9.1 per game) and Casone Ward (5-8, 185 sr.) who averaged eight, and ’13 top JV tackler Owen and Bullock who made big plays versus HHS. LB Jackson delivered a brutal hit. Whitaker said all-out effort and more consistent play will help “us keep games close, for a chance to win.”

West is off Friday, then plays at North Buncombe Sept. 12. This Friday Hendersonville hosts East Henderson, which fell at home to Robbinsville last week. North Henderson, rested from its bye week, is at Swain.

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